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The Food Pyramid Fallacy: Why We Have Been Receiving The Wrong Nutrition Advice

Posted Sep 01 2013 10:06pm
Thumbnail image for The Food Pyramid Fallacy: Why We Have Been Receiving The Wrong Nutrition Advice

Eating a balanced, nutritious diet is one of the keys to living a healthy lifestyle: it provides your body with the energy and nutrients it needs to develop, repair itself, and carry out important biological processes. However, what exactly “balance” is required within our diet is undecided. Over the past several decades, many nutritionists and medical professionals have been debating what are the optimal ratios of fats, sugars, starches and proteins that our diet should be comprised of. One sample that was introduced in the United States in the 1990s was the Food Pyramid, and although it was very popular nationwide for two decades, it has ultimately been replaced as it faced an incredible amount of criticism. As we go forward with understanding how to eat properly, it is important to review the now obsolete Food Pyramid, to determine why as a nation we may have been receiving the wrong nutrition advice, and how we can improve the way we approach healthy living.

The background of the first Food Pyramid demonstrates that this model was produced with good intentions, but it produced mixed results. The Food Pyramid, introduced in the United States in 1992, was based off of a Swedish initiative that was designed to promote variety in one’s diet for health. The first American Food Pyramid design was produced by the United States Department of Agriculture, in part to promote American-grown food products while promoting health among American citizens.

During this period, nutritionists heralded carbohydrates as a fantastic source of energy without the problematic fats and other high-calorie ingredients as other foods, especially meat products. However, there was not an emphasis on the differences between whole grains – which contain extremely healthy dietary fibers as well as additional nutrients – and enriched grains which have been stripped of these healthy elements. High-carb diets are often associated indirectly with unnecessary increases in fat intake for the purposes of providing those starches with substance and flavor. For example, think about the bread basket on the dinner table: these simple carbs are rarely eaten alone, and usually the bread is dipped in flavored highly-caloric oils or slathered with creamy butter.

This version of the Food Pyramid also failed to put an exact measurement on the troublesome foods that give our meals flavor and texture – such as fats, salt, and sugars – only suggesting that they be used “sparingly.” Though this was a great idea, many Americans still felt unsure of how much to use within their cooking, and did not realized that many prepared foods have far more salt, sugars, and fats than they thought. Overall, many products were not addressed – such as full-fat milk products as well as eggs – that have sky-high cholesterol amounts, which can lead to a host of health problems as well.

The Food Pyramid

Since the Food Pyramid, we have become far more focused on analyzing caloric intake and nutrition fact tables on our food packages. During President Obama’s presidency, we have witnessed the development and debut of a new food pyramid that has been dubbed “My Pyramid”, which presents new ratios while still promoting a varied and balanced diet. This has now developed into the “ Choose My Plate ” initiative, which focuses healthy eating in terms of portion control on your circular plate. They focus on many different tips to supplement the ratios that are presented in their materials, such as suggesting a low daily calorie limit, low-fat options of dairy foods, and monitoring salt intake. Furthermore, they are far more specific about which foods are healthy – no longer would 8 ounces of hamburger meat each day be considered healthy as it was with the initial Food Pyramid. As a result of backlash from those who do not eat fish and meat products as sources of protein, there are now also Vegetarian Food Pyramids that help those who abstain from some or all animal products meet their nutritional needs. This pyramid puts focus on nuts and seeds, and balances carbohydrate intake with legumes and seeds as the foundation of the pyramid.

Although basic insurance is necessary for ensuring that you will be taken care of in emergency situations, obtaining better health insurance may help in terms of accessing preventative care and nutritional advice. A good insurance plan, whether it be American, Dutch, or Australian health insurance , should include nutrition care, so that you can design an individual eating plan that works with your lifestyle and is complementary to your body chemistry as well as your weight maintenance goals. Consider scheduling an appointment with a nutritionist in which you may be able to have a consultation to determine whether your current habits are in fact healthy.

Claire Wilson is a freelance writer and blogger from the UK. You can read her articles on health, lifestyle and self-development on various blogs and on her own site  LearningCrazy.com .
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